Indigenous women are gaining more and more power in Panama

Panama (AFP) – Olina Ismari Oba took office Monday as the new mayor of an indigenous town in eastern Panama, spurring the fact that women increasingly hold the highest leadership positions in impoverished indigenous areas of the Central American country.

The leader, who had studied educational sciences in Chile and promoted international initiatives for the benefit of youth and women, assumed the leadership as the main authority of the people of Wuhan, where this function has traditionally rested with men.

His inauguration, adding to Elena Cruz Guerra’s recent victory in the Ngabe Bogli region, in western Panama, and the first-time election of a deputy from the Guna ethnic group to the country’s Legislative Assembly in the 2019 general election, shows that indigenous women are adding more and more leadership to their communities.

“The devolution of power between men and women in indigenous lands is increasing,” Panama’s Deputy Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ausencio Palacio told The Associated Press in telephone comments. “Women are demanding their space and daring to compete in traditional elections (with their village bases) and politics” for positions at the national level, she added.

He considered, “There is also a wear and tear in the leadership of men.”

The niece of a legendary Kachikki in her hometown, Ismari-Obua, narrowly beat outgoing Kachikia Diogracio Puchikama, and her victory is considered historic in that region.

The Wunan people consist of only 8,600 out of more than 450,000 indigenous people spread over seven provinces and five provinces in a country with a general population of over four million. It is the indigenous communities that suffer the largest pockets of poverty and lack of access to basic services in Panama, according to the authorities.

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For her part, Cruz Guerra takes charge from Casica Silvia Carrera in the Ngabe Bogli district, who has led that district since becoming the first female authority there in 2011.

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